Author Topic: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config  (Read 1738 times)

Offline MacOS Plus

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Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« on: November 29, 2016, 10:18:37 AM »
  Years ago I put serious effort into getting ProTools III PCI hardware working in a 9600 system.  (This is one of the later versions of the motherboard with 604ev CPU and no on-board cache.)  It's a wonder I didn't go completely bald from ripping all my hair out trying to make this machine stable in any way.  This motherboard, and every other one from the 85/95/86/9600 series for that matter, have proven to me to be some of the most f-ing finicky pieces of sh*t I've ever had to deal with.  After finally getting it working a few times it had a major freeze which corrupted the boot drive and blew away an authorization.  At that point I gave up and put everything in storage.  I would have rather used a B&W or G4 machine, but not all cards in the set have the minimum required revision of the PCI Matchmaker chip for compatibility with these later systems.  If I get desperate I will replace these chips myself.

  Yesterday I was reorganizing and decided that I would make a fresh attempt to get this system working again.  I now have an SBS 7-slot expansion chassis at my disposal and felt that this would make testing much easier, if only to allow rearranging cards more easily or moving it to other host computers without having to detach everything.  Well, no surprise, I pretty much wasted an entire day not able to get a good DigiTest result or start ProTools 4.1.1 at all.  Digitest also randomly causes repeated Finder crashes, but not always.  Any one card or its placement in the system randomly causes unpredictable issues or lack of boot.  A video card will work for a while and then suddenly refuse, requiring substitution with a different card to get video back no matter what way I reset the system.  I got a Disk I/O-attached drive to be detected and mounted only once out of probably 40-50 times and even that wasn't enough to please it.

  I know there are variations of the SBS chassis that require different card ordering, but I've concluded my placement is correct given warning dialogs from DigiTest when I didn't and based on careful reading of the documentation.  At this point I feel like I'm wasting my time without getting input from users with proven working and stable setups on this platform.  If anyone on the forum has a 9600 2nd-gen motherboard with PT III hardware and an SBS expansion chassis I'd like to hear from you what video card you are using, additional SCSI card if any, and the placement/ordering  of all the cards in motherboard and in the chassis.  Any and all observations would be greatly appreciated!

Offline Knezzen

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2016, 10:46:56 AM »
I got weird problems like the ones you're describing when I had a bad internal cable between the cards.
Do you have a spare cable you can test with?

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2016, 01:22:01 PM »
  It's possible the cable is flaky, but it's an 8-node with only four cards so I've been able to shuffle the headers a bit.  After a cold start today and the cable moved fully to the second set of four headers (yes, I know you're not supposed to leave a open end, but I'm trying anything at this point), the drive was detected again.  DigiTest still produces the same error and also repeated Finder crashes when switching focus to its window.  I have a Disk I/O, DSP Farm (the base requirement for this config), and two SampleCell cards with TDM daughterboards.  The SampleCell cards pass their tests every time but the other two fail on TDM communication with or without the SC cards installed:

Disk I/O - "Can't find any TDM-equipped cards for TDM Transfer."
DSP Farm - "TDM Transfer test failed."

  These messages imply a few possible things - Bad cable, bad Disk I/O card, or communication problems due to other hardware or software setup issues.  I don't have to install the authorizations just to run DigiTest, do I?

  I'd be pretty sad if I had to toss the 8-node cable.  I was really looking forward to being able to expand this card set.  I don't have any spare TDM cables the PCI cards.  The irony, as it stands right now, is that I don't really need a long cable for PCI yet but don't have a short one spare, but for Nubus I need a long one and only have two short ones.  Grrrrrrr...

Offline MacOS Plus

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2016, 08:05:39 PM »
  Minor update - the floppy drive in this machine seems to be failing.  I attached a spare and it is reading the authorizer diskette consistently properly.  Another discovery is that the authorizer can't detect the SCSI bus of the expansion card the boot drive is connected to currently.  I put in another drive attached to the internal SCSI bus of the 9600 and it does see that and works with it.

  Next up, this other drive has OS 9.1 on it.  ProTools 4.1.1 will actually start up, but then in the final moment of loading an old session it crashes saying it needs to be updated in order to work with that OS version.  I don't really know if an update is going to be possible since I only have an authorizer good for up to 4.1.1.  I guess the next thing I'll have to do is try an 8.6 boot.  If anyone knows what if anything can be done to have this working under Mac OS 9.x with my current authorization level, please let me know.

  What are the maximum correct versions of the critical ProTools support files that will work with version 4.1.1?

Offline MacOS Plus

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2016, 08:23:33 PM »
  Final observation for tonight - Booted an 8.6 drive and tried again.  ProTools will run without complaints but sound output is messed up.  I can hear quietly the content of the tracks but mostly overlaid with garbled noise.  Mixer meters stick in one position during playback and don't fluctuate.  This does suggest faulty TDM data communication, but I don't know the root of the problem.  It doesn't seem to be related to the PCI bus.

  It looks like I'm going to have to source out another pair of cards and another TDM ribbon.  The ribbon is easy, the cards not so much.

Offline Knezzen

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2016, 10:17:09 PM »
  Final observation for tonight - Booted an 8.6 drive and tried again.  ProTools will run without complaints but sound output is messed up.  I can hear quietly the content of the tracks but mostly overlaid with garbled noise.  Mixer meters stick in one position during playback and don't fluctuate.  This does suggest faulty TDM data communication, but I don't know the root of the problem.  It doesn't seem to be related to the PCI bus.

  It looks like I'm going to have to source out another pair of cards and another TDM ribbon.  The ribbon is easy, the cards not so much.

Sounds like classic broken TDM cable stuff. I'v had everything from the machine not booting to freezing meters in Pro Tools, harddrives not showing up, full volume digital "garbage sounds" to low and high volume "noise". All this was because of a faulty TDM cable. When I changed the cable the system was rock solid.
Like night and day. Utterly hopeless and crap or wonderful or rock solid. Seems like the only two ways an old TDM system can behave :P

Offline Syntho

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2016, 12:13:08 AM »
9600s are legendary beasts. The only trouble I ever had with them was either MacOS itself or bad PT hardware. You won't find anything more rock solid than a PT system on a 9600. That's why I have three of them  -afro-

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2016, 09:55:02 AM »
  I have a 5-node cable on order from eBay now.  This is the cheapest test I can start with.

@Syntho:  Hopefully once I find the 'magic' combo of everything this machine will become "more rock solid". It's been everything but so far, and not just from a PT standpoint.

Offline MacOS Plus

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2016, 09:23:51 PM »
  Thanks to member "AtariMan" I have obtained a copy of ProTools 5.0.1, the last for PT III hardware.  I'm not running it yet until I get the replacement TDM cable, but I did find the newer version of DigiTest it came with far better and more informative.  First off it confirmed that it wants the expansion chassis host card in the first slot of the 9600, even though it seemed to work the same in the second slot.  (This was not 100% clear in the install guides, and some users elsewhere reported it working fine in other slots.)  Secondly, it has extremely verbose test output for all the Digi cards.  All cards pass all detailed tests except for the TDM communication tests.  This very strongly points towards only a defective TDM cable, as was suggested by Knezzen.

  I'm wondering if the connectors are salvageable from the bad cable and could be re-crimped onto new ribbon stock.  It would be nice to not completely waste an 8-node set of connectors.  Anyone ever done that?

Offline Knezzen

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #9 on: December 04, 2016, 12:22:59 AM »
I'm wondering if the connectors are salvageable from the bad cable and could be re-crimped onto new ribbon stock.  It would be nice to not completely waste an 8-node set of connectors.  Anyone ever done that?

I have done this a couple of times. It's quite hard to get it good, but it's doable.
This was TDM cables for a 24 MIX system though. I just made a centering "instrument" using some wood and then used a vice to press the connector through the cable.

Try it if you're going to have a new cable soon anyway :)

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2016, 09:38:44 PM »
Update:

  I received the new 5-node TDM ribbon cable in the mail yesterday.  This is just long enough to join four cards in the SBS expansion chassis since it has to skip over the bridge board.

  The new cable was installed for testing but the result is exactly the same as before.  The cards pass all of the DigiTest steps except for the lack of TDM clock present.  At this point I think I must suspect the Disk I/O card seeing as it would be the master device that should be generating the TDM clock signal internally for the entire group.  All the other cards can't pass the TDM test because there is no TDM clock signal present for them to respond to.

  I can't see any obvious signs of physical damage on the Disk I/O card that could account for the problem, so I guess it must be either a power jolt hit it or one component has quit functioning correctly on its own.  If I knew which major chips were responsible, and had a donor card, I would happily try replacing them.  The next step for the moment will be to source a known-working Disk I/O card and see what happens.  I wanted another one anyway but could not find one at a reasonable cost.  The replacement TDM ribbon came all the way from a seller in Isreal because it was by far the fairest price.

  On a side note, the audio drive that keeps randomly not being detected seems to itself simply be badly behaved on this controller.  It's Micropolis brand, which I've had occasional problems with before.  I figured it would be fine because it had worked reliably on a Nubus PTIII system (and as such already contained valid sessions and audio files), but apparently not with this card.  Once I get a replacement Disk I/O card I should be able to answer this question definitively.

Offline Philgood

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #11 on: December 23, 2016, 04:20:30 PM »
Sorry I didn't read the thread in detail but i remember I got a clock warning in digitest when I didn't connect at least one interface to one of the cards. Could it be for that ?
*G4 MDD 1.25GHz (Single 2003)* with 2x 80Gb harddrives, 1Gb RAM, Tascam US-428 and Edirol FA-101 USB/Firewire soundcards-*iMac G3 DV 400MHz* with installs from OS 8.6-OSX Tiger on different harddrives-*Powerbook G4 1.67Ghz* with new SSD ! Love it.

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #12 on: December 23, 2016, 08:13:32 PM »
  I have an 882 attached for testing to the Disk I/O card.  It is detected and can be configured.  I only have one interface cable so I can't try attaching a second one to the Farm card, but that shouldn't be necessary.  I've tried two different 882's and the behaviour is exactly the same.  I have three 882's and two 888's available at the moment.

  It's a weird situation because the symptoms and the test results imply there is a complete lack of TDM clock signal generation from the Disk I/O card.  All the other signal routing seems to actually be working.

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2017, 09:55:21 AM »
The mystery deepens...

  I just received another Farm card, which I wanted more of anyway but would allow me to do more testing or build multiple systems.  Using the original Disk I/O card with only the new Farm card actually allows playback to work completely properly!  Now you would think, great, that means it was just a faulty Farm that was causing all the headaches - but no, Digitest still fails both cards with the same error stating that there is no TDM clock present.  How is this possible?!?

  I've also managed to virtually eliminate the issue with the sound drive not showing up on the Disk I/O SCSI bus - by changing the CPU card!!!  Pulling the original 604ev 300MHz and replacing with a Newertech G3/300Mhz has magically corrected the situation.  I don't get it because it should not have had any effect.

  Further to the disk story is that I hooked it back up to the old Nubus TDM system for testing.  This is the setup that originally recorded to this drive.  The drive won't show up at all unless you don't use a terminator!?!  Then it comes up perfectly every time.  I opened up the drive case to make sure I wasn't crazy and prove there was no internal terminator/jumper present, which there isn't.  I don't get it!

Offline JD

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2017, 09:54:35 AM »
So Mac OS Plus, did you get your 9600 PT rig up and running successfully?  This is my first post on this Board which I found when checking on my options for resurrecting my power mac 9600/300mhz PT5.1 PT 24 mix system.  Spent a load on this rig create one album and then it's been sitting in storage for 2 decades--now I just want my old friend back. Connected everything and crossed my fingers and hit the power switch, disks are spinning, LEDs are blinking, but the monitor remains blank.  Looking inside I see that the old trusty 3.6v battery has exploded in the corner of the mother board, getting battery juice in the closes ram slot and all over one of my two memory sticks, and dissolved one POT between the battery and ram slots as well as taking out/corroding the +/- battery terminals down to studs... Iv'e got a new 3.6v battery today, and hope to be able to get out the soldering iron for some surgery tonight to revive this old beast...hopefully i'll be able to get it going without the voodoo that you experienced with your 9600 rig.  I thought I would shoot you a line in case I get this up and running, because there is probably not to many of us still using these 9600/PT5.1 24mix dinosaurs and might be nice to have someone to ping questions and or solutions on HW upgrades or SW with.  Been looking at how far you can take the PT MIX24 system and it seems that maybe PT 10.x is as far as you can go with some craze mix of HW/SW-OS.  Seams that AVID has done everything that it can to make it near impossible for old PT clients and their old systems to exist beyond an iteration or two of its SW versionsólittle loyalty to clients that have paid 10k to play, but to keep current have to pay about 20k to keep playing on the latest.

Offline JD

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2017, 09:08:25 AM »
Well just a follow-up.  I got a new battery for my PM 9600/300mhz board, and pulled out all PCI cards to clean board, only to find that acid from batter explosion had eaten through several chip connections on the motherboard.  The 9600 MB is toast, but the processor card, and all PCI cards are fine including my mix24 3d cube. Now I'm trying to figure out where to go next.... find a new Power Mac 9600/300mhz Mach motherboard--very hard to find so far.  Pick up a G4 as a replacement so that I can still run OS 9.2.2 / PT5.1 and OSX10.3 /PT6.4.  or think about going with a G5 replacing PT MIX cards with PCIx Acotel HD cards but loosing my ability to run OS 9.2.2 and PT 5.1, or going with newer power pro mac's  with modern PCIe.  Each upgrade step is a considerable increase in cost form the previous.  Hopefully i'll be able to just find a powermac 9600 motherboard so I can get back up and running without having to loose my os9.2.2 and PT5.1 DAW. if Anyone has an idea where I can find a 9600/300mhz motherboard.  please let me know via a reply. thanks JD

Offline MacOS Plus

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2017, 02:34:47 PM »
Sorry to hear about your problem, JD!

  In response to your question about my system, I'm happy with the configuration at the moment.  I'm convinced now that the Micropolis hard drive I've been struggling with is the culprit by being just plain weird.  Other drives from Seagate didn't act the same way.  I copied some of the old sessions and audio from the Micropolis drive to a Seagate and haven't had problems with detection since then.  DigiTest still fails but I'm also convinced it's just DigiTest being weird.

  The other things changed to settle the system down were removing the SCSI card and booting from the internal bus, changing the video card, and sticking with the expansion chassis for the PT cards.  The only oddity now is that the currently attached LCD monitor shuts itself off when the system reboots, and you have to manually turn it back on.  I figure this is just something weird about this monitor in combination with the particular video card.  I can live with it to have a stable system with 1920x1080 resolution.  (Monitor is probably detecting a momentary out-of-range signal and shutting off to protect itself.)  I also have been running Mezzo archiver software restoring ancient projects from Exabyte tapes before they become unreadable due to age.

Remaining stuff to tackle:

- Acquire more Disk I/O SCSI bus cables and additional Farm cards so I can expand the available voices.
- Find software for the SampleCell cards so I can make full of them.

Offline JD

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2017, 07:10:43 AM »
Glad to hear that you resolved your voodoo issues with your rig.  Wish I had the expansion chassis like you as it would give me more options. Did you ever think about replacing your 9600 with a last generation G4 to retain PT5 and also run PT6.4, or give though to moving to a G5 with PCI or PCIx to run versions of PT6.4 to (PT9.x I believe as last version that can be run on a G5 with last version of OSX)?  Would be interested to hear if you reviewed all of your options when you resurrected your 9600 rig, and what alternate plans you had in the event the your 9600 voodoo did not go away.

I have got to say it is unbelievably complicated to pull together and look at upgrades to Protools on older Mac's---I wish I could find a Pro tools matrix (excel sheet) that listed from the beginning of time, all Pro tools Software Versions, the range/versions of hardware DPS/samplecell/other cards (including buss interfaces supported (PCI/PCIx/PCIe), the range of digidesign/avid/other Audio interfaces both required and legacy that work with the PT SW version, and the compatible operating systems ranges of Mac OS, OSX and Win that it will operate on for multi-boot options--its an absolute pain to try to lookup all these interdependent requirements to get a good idea of what you can run on what environment to fully understand your options. At least with your expansion chassis you have more options open to you.

Ideally, I would be able to Run PT5.1 through PT9.x but I don't think this is possible, but PT6.x through PT9.x might be.  I was looking to pick up an Avid Eleven Rack which needs PT9.x or higher to integrate into my rig, while still being able to boot into lower PT versions to run my TDM cards and 888 & 882 interfaces for the main studio mixing process. A G4 will allow me to run PT5 and PT6, and has a 3rd party add in card to support serial interface for my older Studio 5 and Studio 3 MIDI interfaces,  but I don't think it will support PT9, and going with a G5 kills PT5 and reuse of the TDM cards and audio IO interfaces unless using an older G5 with PCI slots, but this also kills reuse of my MIDI Studio 5 & 3 patch bays.  Just trying to figure out what the best route to take is, and don't want to spend a fortune to get up and running again--as I will be only using the rig as a personal system for the joy of making music and studio mixing my own stuff.

PS it was nice to find someone with close to my same old rig to bonce idea's against since i'm sure we have had some similar thoughts on this topic.  Thanks for chiming in.


Offline MacOS Plus

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Re: Suggestions for a stable 9600 + ProTools III config
« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2017, 09:19:18 PM »
  I would rather have not used the 9600 at all, but there was the convenience (and novelty) factor that it is actually in a Marathon rack-mount enclosure rather than a stock Apple case.  I didn't have many options with many PCI slots either, but getting hold of expansion chassis certainly helped my options.  There are all sorts of pitfalls with G3/G4 compatibility depending on the revisions of the chassis hardware, but I believe every one I have is fully supported throughout the OS9 compatible machines.  (You probably don't want to hear that I actually have three 7-slot SBS/Bit3 chassis, a Magma 4-slot and 2-slot.  Seems like a lot, but I'm going to use all of them eventually for various systems.  The smaller ones are paired up with Powerbooks most of the time.)  If it weren't for Pro Tools, the 9600 might not be doing anything at all.  Like every Mac of it's generation they are always mysteriously sluggish for no good reason.  At least the G3 CPU replacement seems to have helped slightly even though it is running at the same clock speed.

  The biggest problem with my Pro Tools config is the PCI Matchmaker chip revision on these Digi cards.  Due to a bug in the early revision chips, they must be Rev C or later to work in anything post-beige, but some of my cards don't have the updated one.  Digi used to provide a refurb service for this.  I have the equipment and skill required to de-solder and replace these 160-pin monsters, but no one has so far been able to confirm for me if this was the only needed change or if a firmware update was also required.  If it's just the big chip swap then it's no big deal for me.  If it requires a firmware flash and/or JTAG programming then it's a no-go.  I want to be sure before I go to the effort and damage risk of trying it because I've done it with other brands of cards and the results were hit and miss - some worked fine and others not at all.  Having to revert back to the original chip is a major PITA!

  As to software versions, PT5.0.1 is the cap for PTIII PCI support, and I have no intention of spending the kind of money still demanded on the used market for later hardware to run later versions.  I also want nothing to do with OS X and anything requiring an iLok dongle.  Realistically what I have is more than enough for what I'll ever need from Pro Tools.  Maybe in the future when the used market gets more realistic in prices I'll reconsider.  Also, G5 computers are apparently all ticking time-bombs for premature failure, especially the water cooled ones.  Plus they are still to expensive.  All of my equipment is centred around a certain 'era' which I have the required knowledge and experience with.  I want to keep all of my different systems as 'co-operative' and consistent as possible in order to keep my studio integrated and uncomplicated.  It's hard enough as it is to remember how to set up and operate each different hardware/software platform properly while keeping in mind all the permanent bugs and pitfalls of each one.  If I need recording and editing at high sample rates up to 192KHz I have SonicStudio HD for that under OS 9.x anyway.

  You're absolutely right there should be some kind of streamlined chart for PT hardware and software generations.  So much of that information is scattered over a ton of Digi documents.  I had a hell of a time even sorting out what the proper slot assignments were supposed to be for my particular expansion chassis revision and which slot the host card was supposed to go in in the 9600.  In the end DigiTest still doesn't work correctly even though everything else seems to.  DigiTest won't run at all on my nubus mac either because the 9150 machine model isn't supported for some reason.  It's all such a pain until you finally hit on the magic combinations of everything.  Now that I have all this hardware I'm going to try to make the best of it.